Jason Miles / Soul Summit

Soul Summit

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In the mid-2000s, Grammy winning keyboardist and producer Jason Miles developed a unique relationship with the promoters of the world renowned Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, PA, acting as something of an unofficial house ringleader for some once in a lifetime all-star tribute gatherings. Following his rousing shows centered around the music of Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, and Ivan Lins -- he also did tribute recordings to the latter two -- Miles dig deep into his love of the classic soul that inspired his own remarkable musical journey and created a stunning Soul Summit at the 2007 festival. As with all of his tribute projects, Miles began with the idea of revisiting classic music with a modern sense, inviting legendary sidemen like "Funk Brother" Bob Babbitt, Reggie Young, and Steve Ferrone to the party; he followed with inspired R&B vocal choices (the rich-voiced Maysa from Incognito and blues/soul singer/songwriter Susan Tedeschi), and topped the gang off with fiery contemporary saxmen Richard Elliot (who burns down the house on the always invigorating "Shotgun") and Karl Denson, who is also a marvel on flute on a sensual, hypnotic twist on Herbie Mann's "Memphis Underground." The set goes for different dynamics to convey the many essences of classic soul; while "Shotgun" gets everyone up dancing, "It's Raining" simmers with a richer, more measured intensity thanks to Tedeschi's impassioned vocals. Sometimes, Miles' choices aren't simply based on great material. Reggie Young played guitar on the original "Son of a Preacher Man," and Tedeschi is the perfect foil for his cool, simmering crackle. Education also plays a part of the show. Most soul fans in the current generation know "What a Man" from the early '90s En Vogue/Salt-N-Pepa version, but it originated with Stax singer Linda Lyndell -- as Maysa and the sizzling horn section remind us. More obvious choices like the blistering 11-minute closing James Brown medley are balanced by more obscure but no less inspiring gems like "Cold Snap" (sung by the gritty Mike Mattison) and Miles' own contributions to the classic soul (and soul-jazz) legacy, the bubbling flute and sax tune "Chicken and Waffles" and bluesy, horn drenched and vibes flavored "Memphis 2000." Miles amazed in the past with his all-star studio tributes to Lins, Weather Report, and Grover Washington, Jr.. This disc makes a case to bring back the more spontaneous possibilities of live concert CDs.

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